Qatar is a small country on the shores of the Arabian Gulf.
Qatar is a small country on the shores of the Arabian Gulf. In the past, the land of pearl divers, today it is the wealthiest country in the world, where they go over the sea and the sun. In addition to beaches and palm trees, Qatar can give gastronomic pleasures, a close acquaintance with the masterpieces of modern art, and clearly show how you can wisely spend oil money on a national scale.
The primary market of the country:
The heart of any Arab city is the oriental bazaar. And even if today Doha, the capital of Qatar, looks more like a frame from the movie “The Fifth Element”, where even mosques sometimes have the appearance of spaceships with minarets soaring into the sky, the quarters of futuristic skyscrapers are more pleasant to look at from the car window than to steam in the heat, walking on foot amid the ongoing construction of business districts.
Better go to the megalithic Souk Waqif market to immediately plunge into the flavor of the country and, as they say, taste it to your teeth.
Souk-Waqif was rebuilt on the site of the old bazaar only in 2004. Still, it looks as if it has always been here: above the winding galleries, gold shops shine, and fabric shops are complete, the smells of hookahs and tart oriental perfumes soar, mixing with the aromas of edible shops.
Here, each bus is cooked in giant pots – yellow saffron rice with chicken, flavored with dried black lemons. Rice with distinctly Indian flavors would already be called “biryani”. These two dishes are the pillars of local cuisine, and Qatari cuisine, in general, is a mixture of Arab culinary stories and Indian spices, where each wave of migrants from Asia and Africa brings new national flavors.
Another gastronomic attraction is the so-called “women’s market”. Women of different nationalities, wrapped in burqas and scarves to their very eyes, sell sugar luqaimat doughnuts, thick honey glazed pancakes, and refreshing mint lemonade.
If you want to get acquainted with a local legend, go to Shay al Shomous for breakfast, to Mrs. Shams al-Kassab. This lively lady in her sixties was the first woman in Qatar to open her own business in the form of a small cafe and a spice shop with it.
In a purely Islamic society, this was a scandal, but Shams managed to get the highest approval of a relative of the emir himself, and the enemies had to shut up.
Today she is a celebrity; all the cafe walls are covered with editorials of newspapers dedicated to the brave little woman, and, significantly, Shay al Shomous is a rare place in Doha where local women can come without a male escort. They cook wonderfully there: pilaf of all stripes and thin crunchy flatbreads with different fillings, which Shams jokingly calls “Qatari pizza”. Be mindful of your choice of dishes: portions are generous.
Walks in Europe:
Qatar tried to take the best it could from the world with its vast oil and gas resources at its disposal. There is, for example, in Doha its own area of Venice with canals, pizzerias, chocolate shops, and the Rialto Bridge, from where tourists throw coins into the water.
There is a brand new, brand new shopping mall Al Hazm. The contours of the Milan Victor Emmanuel Gallery are easily guessed, but in an even more luxurious marble decoration, made by skilled carvers from the Indian state of Rajasthan.
True, for some reason, the glass pyramid of the Louvre is stuck in front of the entrance, but it is still impressive. There is also a Parisian quarter – under the completely natural dome of the Les Invalides, there is the Galeries Lafayette department store and the recently opened Café Pouchkine in a Parisian format with an emphasis on sweets.
Nobu Matsuhisa, Gordon Ramsey, Alain Ducasse, and Wolfgang Pak have already opened their restaurants in Doha.
Capital of contemporary art:
However, the process is not limited to repeating what has already been done; the Qatari authorities may well afford to sponsor unique masterpieces. Over the past five years, Doha has rapidly evolved into a city-sized biennial of contemporary art.
The modern district of Educational City, where branches of the world’s most prominent universities are located, amazes with the snow-white building of the Rem Koolhaas National Library, stylized as a folded sheet of paper.
A couple of blocks away, a giant spider, placed here by the notorious Louise Bourgeois, spread its nets. There’s also a modern mosque, similar to the galactic ship Enterprise, with quotes from the Quran on the walls-portholes. A sculptural group of Damien Hirst (the one who became famous for the formaldehyde shark) is installed near the pediatrics “Sidra” giant center.
Museums that will surprise you:
Even if the names above don’t tell you anything and the museum collections make you yawn, the two museums in Doha are well worth the time.
The first is the Museum of Islamic Art, a stepped pyramid containing ancient examples of religious manuscripts, carpets, engravings, and jewellery. At the same time, the five-story window offers the best views of the bay.
The second is Qatar’s National Museum, where acquaintance with the country’s history takes place through complete immersion in an interactive exhibition. Each visitor becomes a participant in one of the hundreds of moving pictures related to the country’s history.
From the outside, the museum strikes no less: while creating it, the eminent architect Jean Nouvel was inspired by the image of the crystal “desert rose” appearing from nowhere under the influence of wind and sand.
Summer without end:
And about the weather. From the end of November to March, the temperature in Doha drops to stable values of + 25-27 C, which is quite comfortable to arrange a night picnic under the palm trees on the well-groomed Corniche promenade – decomposing, following the example of the locals, right on emerald lawn and admiring the illuminated silhouettes of skyscrapers.
Going from one place to another is relatively easy. You don’t need to walk everywhere when services like rent-a-car in Doha, Qatar is available.
Or sail the bay on a traditional wooden dhow boat. Or decide on a foray into the desert, where, after racing in jeeps through the dunes, you can live for a couple of days in a luxurious camping tent with royal comforts. Or go to one of the festivals in city parks, there are many of them here from February to March – a cultural, jazz, fireworks festival. Or just spend a lazy day on the golden sand of the loose beach of a five-star hotel.